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For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes (Historical Backgrounds)

Jesus’ final beatitude (Matthew 5:11-12) differs from the earlier ones in its specificity and personal application. Up to this point, Jesus has used general pronouns as the object of blessing. For instance, “blessed are those…blessed are they…” Beginning in verse 11, though, his teaching shifts to the personal pronoun, “you,”—a direct reference that included his twelve apostles, each person in the large crowd of listeners and, by extension, you and me today.

It’s important to note that this final beatitude promises great suffering for Jesus’ followers: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (verse 11).

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Jesus didn’t say “if people insult you…” but “when people insult you…” The message is clear: undeserved hardship is an expected part of the Christian life. It’s rare to find anyone today who would be willing to “name and claim” this promise of God, but Jesus’ followers experienced it nonetheless. Consider what happened to each of Jesus’ original disciples (minus Judas the betrayer, who killed himself):

• Andrew: Crucified on an X-shaped cross.

• Bartholomew: Flayed alive with knives until he died.

• James (son of Alphaeus): Sawed to pieces.

• James (son of Zebedee): Beheaded.

• John: Poisoned (but miraculously survived). Boiled in oil (but miraculously survived). Imprisoned, in his old age, on the island of Patmos, where “men worked chained to their slave barrows” in the marble mines.

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• Matthew (Levi): Died a martyr while preaching in Ethiopia.

• Peter: Crucified upside down.

• Philip: Hanged to death.

• Simon (the Zealot): Sawed in half.

• Thaddaeus (Jude): Martyred while preaching in Persia.

• Thomas: Speared to death.

This teaching of Jesus, and its subsequent fulfillment in the lives of the Apostles, leaves us with one question that must be answered by each follower of Christ today: What will you do with this difficult promise of God?

 

Works Cited:

[NAS, 1277–1280; WWW, 211]

 

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